What I did on my summer vacation

I’ve been off-line for a good portion of the summer while away at Pennsic and then continuing with some holidays to see family.  Also preparation for all the wonderful things happening to friends of mine.  My belt sister, Alais was Laureled on the 27th of August, myself and my daughters are joyfully looking forward to the Knighting of our friend AElfwyn next weekend and the Coronation of another belt sister on on the 17th.

So, busy.

But Pennsic and the classes I took (and taught) are what I would like to go over in my post today.

I was very happy to see that there were a variety of naalbinding classes being taught this year at Pennsic.  Left handed naalbinding was taught and this was fantastic, I had more people come to my classes who were left handed than ever before.

I taught an intermediate naalbinding class twice and the multi-coloured/multi strand class 3 times.  All were fairly well attended and for the most part it seems that the students left the class with a better understanding of new techniques.

I took a number of classes, not as many as I had hoped as the heat of Pennsic this year was on the extreme end.

Viking textile and trim, naalbinding spots and rings, Food and Nutrition Ango Saxon England, Birka Posaments, and the Haithabu purse.  All of the classes were fantastic!
I was lucky enough to get to the purse class early enough to get a kit and by the end of the day had a new finished purse.  I hope to do a little more research on this myself to see if there were ever any purse handles found that were made of bone.  I’m doubtful there is but it would be neat.
The Posaments class was wonderful, I attended the lecture but not the hands on class.  The spaces were fairly limited and with the kit and instructions provided I was fairly certain I could get started on it on my own.  I was very interested in this class as it does overlap some with the silver wire work trim that I have been researching.  Now that I’m home I have indeed managed to pick up some of the designs and am really loving the delicate work that it produces.  I will for certain be acquiring more wire to continue with making posaments.
For those interested in more about posaments, here is the website of the lady who taught the class (and also sells the kits and supplies).

A pudding of sour cherries



82. Ein wissel mus

Der denne wölle machen ein kirsenmus. der breche die stile abe. und siede sie mit ein wenic wins. und slahe sie denne durch ein tuch mit einer semel brösemen. wol derwelet in eime hafen. und tu smaltzes genue dran. und rüerez denne mit eyer totern. und strauwe würtze doruf. so manz anrihten wil.



82. A pudding of sour cherries

If you want to make a pudding of sour cherries, remove the stems, and boil the cherries with a little wine.  Then press them through a cloth with white bread crumbs, boiled well in a pot. Add enough lard, and then stir egg yolks in it. For serving sprinkle with seasoning.

Adamson, Melitta Weiss, Daz buch von guter spise: The Book of Good Food, A Study, Edition and English Translation of the Oldest German Cookbook. Medium Aevum Quotidianum Sonderbrand IX, 2000.



600gms of sour cherries (fresh with stems removed or frozen when out of season)
1.5 cups of red wine
1 cup of bread crumbs
5 egg yolks
2 tbsp of butter or lard

Seasoning – combine these

1tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
dash of cloves
dash of galingale

In a pot, add the cherries & wine. Simmer until the cherries are soft.  Stir in bread crumbs then press the mixture through a cloth, throw away skins.  Return to the pot, add 5 egg yolks & bring to a simmer, stirring until it thickens.  Serve warm or cold & sprinkled with seasoning.


Adamson, Melitta Weiss, Daz buch von guter spise: The Book of Good Food, A Study, Edition and English Translation of the Oldest German Cookbook. Medium Aevum Quotidianum Sonderbrand IX, 2000.

Trillium Exchange

Ealdormere has wrapped up another round of the Trillium Exchange.  After helping run the last two rounds I was finally able to take part again.

For my recipient I made a pair of nalbound mittens in a brown Icelandic wool done in Finnish 2/2 stitch.  I then added a bit of embroidery around the edges, embroidery is one of those things I’ve only dabbled in at this point.

Some of the inspiration for the embroidery came from these mittens.





Dyeing with Woad – Attempt #1

Dyeing with woad is the most ambitious dye project that I have undertaken so far.  I have two items that I need to dye blue as components of what will be my Pent entry for next spring.  50gms of yarn and a half metre of a 2/2 twill wool.

This website was one of the key resources that I used in planning my woad dye.


After reading of the different methods, I decided to use the urine vat method as apposed to the other chemical ones that are often done.  Yes, the urine has that “ick” factor to it but I’m also wanting to try this process in the most historically accurate way that I can.  I did not use fresh woad leave though, I was given as a gift a few years ago a collection of dye stuffs. That included some woad powder (that was prepped from the woad grown on a friends farm).

Fabric & yarn pre-dye attempts

Take 1:

My family spent a weekend collecting urine, my daughters, when first told about this project flipped out a little.  Once it was underway though they were unfazed.  We managed what was about 6-7 litres.  I after a few days I added in the woad then set the sealed bucket in the backyard for a week.  At that point it smelt like a pig barn and had a yellow (with a touch of green) colour.  Sadly after letting the prepped wool sit in it for an hour and then pulling it out I was disappointed to not see the colour develop.  There were a few spots that randomly turned blue, but nothing like what I had been hoping to see.  I’m guessing that the vat didn’t have enough woad in it.  Therefore, I’m adding more woad.  Well rinsing the wool (because it’s a bit stinky) and will have to wait a bit longer before my next attempt.



Dyeing with Weld & Madder

I still consider myself a novice with dyes, I’ve done madder in the past but have never managed to get a red (possibly I allowed the bath to get too hot and broke down the colour). As part of my Pent entry for next year I want to do a pair of mitten based on the textile fragments that were found in Grave 1 at Kaukola Kekomaki in Finland.  The fragments were in a woman’s grave dated to the 13-14th Century and found near a finger ring and near the hem of an apron that was also decorated with bronze spirals.

Finished madder and weld dyes on 100% wool.

The fragments key feature are 3 colourful repeating stripes. I’m planning to do the re-construction using the spiral technique that allows me to work all 3 colours at once and not have any staggered joins in the colours.  I will still need to do a third round of dyeing to get the blue yarn with woad (and pee! I’m still reading up on dyeing in a urine vat).

Mordanting the yarn

For the Madder:

100gms of fibre
10 litres of water
8gms of Alum
7grms of Cream of tartar

For the Weld

50gms of fibre
5 litres of water
4gms of Alum

Yarn was pre-soaked before mordanting process

For adding the alum and cream of tartar to each bath it was first dissolved in boiling water. Then added into the pot with cold water.

Pre-soaked yarn was then added to the pots and the temperature was slowly brought up to between 87C and 90C.  I stirred to distribute the heat as little as possible.  The pots were set to simmer for an hour, the heat was then turned off and the baths were allowed to cool with the yarn still in them.  Roughly 8 hours. It was then hung to dry.

2 days later is when I went to work actually dyeing the yarn.  Prep of the two dye baths came first.


Madder Dye Bath

100 grams ground madder root
Calcium carbonate -12 tablets ground – dissolved in boiling water and added to the bath.
7l of water

Dye bath heated and kept around 70C for 2 hours, then cooled before straining the bath. The bath was then returned to the pot, the mordanted yarn was then added to the dye bath and kept over the lowest heat setting on the stove for 2 hours.  Just enough to keep it warm. The yarn was then left in the bath to cool for 6 hours before being hung to dry.  The yarn will get rinsed after it has completely dried. I had considered leaving the yarn in longer but the colour was already to a dark enough shade of red-orange that I was really happy with.


Weld dye bath

50 grams dried weld
Calcium carbonate – 5 tablets ground – dissolved in boiling water and added to the bath.
5l of water

Dye bath was brought to 80C and simmered for 1.5 hours, allowed to cool some and then the weld was stained out of the liquid.  Yarn was then placed in the bath and left overnight and into the next day until I needed to prep the bucket for the straining the madder dye bath. It was hung to dry and is a wonderful dark lemon yellow.  Once it has completely dried I will do a final rinse and let it dry.


I purchased the weld and madder from a company within Canada:



Vajanto, Krista. “Nålbinding in Prehistoric Burials – Reinterpreting Finnish 11th-14th Century AD Textile Fragments”Sounds Like Theory, MASF2, 2014, pgs 21-33.



Weaving Sample – Pent Prep

I’m currently in the beginning steps of planning out my Pentathlon entry for Ealdormere’s  Kingdom A&S to be entered in the spring of 2017.  My entry is largely based on Finnish grave finds and reproducing items that are from the same grave/area.  One of the first pieces I have started was the mantle.

The mantles from Finnish Iron Age women’s graves are wool, woven in 2/2 twill.  Frequently dyed blue (and dyed after being woven).  The one I am focusing on is white or “sheep” coloured.  Mantles also measure roughly 100cm x 150cm.

Up until now my weaving experience has been limited to narrow inkle woven bands.  I am however very lucky to have a good friend who is an excellent weaver, teacher and has looms I can use. Her blog with lots of fantastic weaving stuff can be found here: 


My test piece was done on her Ashford table loom.  The final piece will be woven on her larger loom as the Ashford is much less than 100cm wide. 

I will be weaving with Knit Picks – Bare Shadow Lace Yarn – 100% merino.  It is easy to acquire and not too expensive.  

With the assistance of Baroness Catherine she helped me through the various steps required a lot of math.  The math itself isn’t overly complex but the formulas and the relation to how it would affect the final piece were new to me. I’ve included her breakdown at the end of the post.  Now that I’ve actually done the weaving I am better able to wrap my head around how the calculations play out in the creation of a piece of fabric.

The goal was to create a piece of 2/2 twill with a thread count of 10 threads per cm. The end piece would let me see if this thread count would create a piece of fabric I was happy with and determine how much string was going to be needed.

I prepped a 250 string warp.  Prepped them, moved the prepped piece to the loom, set that up and threaded all 250 heddles.  Baroness Catherine helped walk me through these steps with the basic instruction on each step and then left me to mess it up on my own.

Once the warping was finished Catherine and I noticed a couple of errors in the threading.  Given the piece was to be a sample I decided not to undo hours of set up work.  


I also had a couple errors when first starting.  The 2/2 twill required the use of 4 levers to adjust the pattern and I lost my place.  There is also one error where I lost my place because Cate was talking to me. The small photograph below shows 2 of the warping errors and one where I lost my place in the 2/2 pattern repeat. 

The warping of the loom took roughly 7 hours.  It took about 2 hours to weave the sample.  I plan to keep closer track of the time spent on the various stages when I undertake the larger piece. 

weaving calculations


Lehtosalo-Hilander, Pirkko-Liisa. Ancient Finnish Costumes. The Finnish Archaeological Society, Helsinki, Finland. 1984

Vajanto, Krista. Dyes and Dyeing Methods in Late Iron Age Finland. University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies, Arkeologia, 2016.




Birka Comb

As my White Wolf Fian re-challenge I decided to attempt an antler comb based on an item for Birka.  I had, years ago made an antler comb that was, in my opinion, horrible.  It was also a huge learning tool in what NOT to do the next time I attempted to make a comb.

For those not in the SCA or from Ealdormere, the White Wolf Fian is an order where you become a member by taking on a project that is challenge and strives for the authentic research and reproduction of artifacts.  When an individual completes their challenge and it is accepted by the Fian and the Queen you become a full member.  For 3 years.  Then you have to do it all over again.  There is no rank or symbols for the order.  We do have an unofficial motto of “blood, sweat, tears and panic water”.

You can read our charter and other information on the Fian here:


This is the comb I based mine on:


The material I made my comb from is red deer antler.  I’m lucky enough to be located close to a red deer farm (who sells antler bits at the local farmers marker, cut into manageable sizes and labelled as dog chew toys).  The rivets were made from copper wire, the original comb had iron rivets, metal working of a degree that I was not willing to taking on.

The rest of the comb was all work, I used only hand tools to shape the antler, a coping saw, knife, hand spoon bit, and files.

I also tested out a method of splitting a larger piece of antler that was to become the tooth plates.  I used the saw to cut into the hard outer layer of antler and then an antler tine as a wedge that was hammered in to split it.

And it worked!

My side plates were made from pieces that were cut down the length of the antler when I purchased it. There was still a great deal of cleaning and shaping to do.  This is an area where next time I will likely cut away sections of antler to get the shape I want. Also clearing off the spongey side of the antler with a chisel would be faster than cutting it away with a knife like I did with my comb.

This artifact that was on display at the Canadian Museum of History in We Call Them the Vikings, is what gave me the idea of cutting more to shape.  It is an unfinished set of side comb plates.

I also shaped and cleaned up the tooth plates.  My technique improved as I worked on them, the last plate was done in half the time the first one took.  They still are totally finished in the picture below.


The side plates took the most time shaping, nearly all of it done with a knife.  The line designs were done with a small file and a knife.


Using my spoon bit I then drilled the holes for the rivets.

Next time I make a comb I won’t be doing these in advance. I will be doing the rivet holes at the time of mounting the tooth plates to aid in lining things up better.

All polishing was done at this stage as well. I used wood ash trying it out with both wool and linen swatches. I liked the polish that was created by the ash/linen combination.

Photo backdrop provided by my cat.


I then did the rivet holes in the tooth plates.  Finally, I assembled the comb! It was extremely nerve wracking at first to take something I had put so much work into and hit it with a hammer.  And hit it repeatedly!  But antler is extremely strong, given that male deer smash into each other to prove who is the toughest and the antler survives is a testament to that.

One at a time, the 4 tooth plates go in.

And I found I had misaligned one plate and mounted it too high, leaving an area where there is a “dent” along the spine of the comb.  I’m really miffed about this error.  I did however, keep the dust from cutting the teeth and hope to mix it with a glue (type to be yet determined) to fill in the area.

So the comb is now 1 piece!  It needed some tidying up though, the plates needed to be trimmed along the spine and levelled at the top.

Even more anxiety inducing than beating the comb with a hammer was cutting the teeth.  There are many extant combs with broken teeth and the possibility of wrecking the comb at this point is high.  Once I got going with the process I had a mental image of some poor apprentice in a workshop endlessly practicing sawing teeth on blanks before ever being allowed to touch a comb at this stage of the process.  And here I was with my second attempt and the first one really didn’t go that well.

I measured and marked where I wanted the teeth to be with a pencil (spaced 3mm apart). I then used a file to make guide notches for the start of the saw cut.

Some of the cutting went well, some didn’t.  I had one area where I went crooked off the cut line and had to re-space the cuts for the rest of that tooth plate. I actually walked away from the project for a week at that point.

The last tooth plate on the far right is the section I was the most pleased with.  As with other aspects of this comb, my technique improved as I progressed.


After the teeth were cut I used a knife to try and smooth and shape the teeth.  They aren’t as even and lovely as on the comb which I was basing this on but in the end I do have a functional comb.  As proven by Her Majesty Adrielle, in court, when She and the Fian accepted my challenge as complete.


Some of the sources I used:

Ambrosian, Kristina, Viking age combs, comb making and comb makers: in the light of finds from Birka and Ribe. Dept. of Archaeology, North-European, University of Stockholm, 1981

MacGregor, Arthur, Bone, Antler, Ivory & Horn: The Technology of Skeletal Materials Since the Roman Period. Croom Helm, 1985

Swedish History Museum – http://historiska.se/home/